What’s behind a vaping illness outbreak in the US?
What’s behind a vaping illness outbreak in the US?
Instead of classic cigarettes, the recent trend of using vapes and e-cigarettes has grown to a colossal scale all over the world. In the United Kingdom only there are almost three million vape users.
As opposed to an old-school cigarette smoking, vaping is based on inhaling water which, obviously evaporates, and includes nicotine, water, solvents, and flavor. It is supposed to be a healthier version of smoking, as it does not include burning tobacco, and the vaping mix usually doesn’t have those side components besides nicotine. It was supposed to be, we say today as the question of how safe vaping is arose in full seriousness.
The United States became a country that faced and started recognizing the issue of potential vaping health threat. This year only there have been reported almost five hundred cases of lung disease and malfunction tied to vaping. Moreover, at least six death across 33 stated are also tied to the same cause.
One of the stories that made its impact on the whole situation is from 18-year-old Simah Herman. She was induced into a medical coma because of how dangerous the condition was: Simah suffered from pneumonia and lung failure. After she received the treatment and woke up from the coma, she posted online a shocking picture of herself holding a piece of paper. The paper said that she was aimed to warn others against using vapes and e-cigarettes and start an anti-vaping campaign.
Her story awoke many and made people question how safe vaping is and if the regulations need to be reconsidered and become more strict.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one of the main organizations meant to protect public health in the United States, has its health officials checking on what’s been causing these problems.
The survey conducted back in 2016 states that the total number of vapers in the US reaches ten million people. About half of smokers are under the age of 34, while the age group of 18-24-year-olds is named the most regular users.
So considering that survey, it is not surprising that the majority of the 450 alleged victims of vaping are your people with an average age of 19.
The symptoms include a wide range of all kinds of troubles with lungs: people have reported experiencing include severe pneumonia, shortness of breath, coughing, fever, fatigue, and respiratory failure. The latter one is extremely dangerous as the lung basically stop working, making breathing difficult and not productive leading to lessening the amount of oxygen in the blood.
There is no tying up to a particular brand or manufacturer or a device type: the people who reported the symptoms had used different devices from vaporizers to smaller e-cigarettes and a variety of different brands of liquids and cartridges.
In order to shed some light on the root cause of the symptoms, the FA has collected a hundred and twenty samples of various chemicals to test their possible role in the story. The chemicals include nicotine, cannabinoids, additives, and pesticides.
Not that safe?
Vaping has always been seen as a safer alternative to smoking. There is no actual smoke, unlike in real cigarettes, and there are less harmful chemicals produced when using a vape or an e-cigarette.
However, something may still be the reason behind those symptoms. Health investigators in the US are trying to answer the question of whether a particular toxin or substance is the root cause, or whether it’s the result of heavy usage.
There are theories floating around. One of them says the reason may be a bad ingredient which could have been introduced to some vaping liquids, including marijuana products – which are legally available in some US states. The ingredient some are to blame is E.
There are already investigations started the New York State health department on whether Vitamin E has something to do with it. They call it a “key focus” after having thirty-four people in the state showing the symptoms.
The FDA, on the other hand, is not sure Vitamin E is the root of all evils and is not ready to ban any of the vaping liquids.
Other possible offenders are “thickeners” which are a usual component added to vaping liquids that are produced for e-cigarettes and vaporizers.
The UK health experts say they have no information about anything similar happening in the country as the wave of incidents in the United States.
Martin Dockrell, Head of Tobacco Control at Public Health England says: “A full investigation is not yet available, but we’ve heard reports that most of these cases were linked to people using illicit vaping fluid bought on the streets or homemade, some containing cannabis products, like THC, or synthetic cannabinoids, like Spice.
“Unlike the US, all e-cigarette products in the UK are tightly regulated for quality and safety by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and they operate the Yellow Card Scheme, encouraging vapers to report any bad experiences.”
Is it something new?
Vaping has already been questioned as to whether it is as safe as the manufacturers claim it to be. A report by The British Medical Journal was published last year describing a health incident of a woman who was with a cough, fever, night sweats, and respiratory failure. It was investigated that the cause of her health issues was a vegetable glycerine found in her e-cigarette. However, the lady refused to quit smoking. At least, at the time when she was talking to doctors.
Another concern about vaping is of different nature yet still rather dangerous. There have been several reports of vaping devices exploding. In a few cases, it even was the cause of death.
One incident happened this year when a man from Texas died as the battery in his vaping device blew up. A 24-year-old vaper got shards of metal fly into his face and neck and sever an artery.
According to Public Health England, there are fewer chances such incident will happen in the UK. The United Kingdom regulations on vaping pens, e-cigarettes, and other vaping devices are stricter and with their safety and quality checks being rather meticulous.
Susan Walley, the chair of the American Academy of Paediatrics tobacco control section, points out that as vaping devices have become a growing trend fairly recently, the doctors don’t really know what to think about them and what advice vapers should receive.
American health professionals, on the other hand, decided to take a radical step advising everyone to stop vaping. At least while the investigation is in progress and there is no additional information to rely on.
In the UK, Public Health England’s advice remains that e-cigarettes are “a fraction of the risk of smoking”.
The government agency reminds vapers “to use UK-regulated e-liquids and never risk vaping homemade or illicit e-liquids or adding substances, any of which could be harmful.”